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Posts Tagged ‘clowns

“By blood a king, in heart a clown”*…

 

Readers will remember Arthur Drooker, photographer-extraordinaire of conventioneers.  His most recent foray will reassure those who’ve been worried at the prospect of a clown shortage, even as it horrifies those with coulrophobia…  Drooker’s most recent stop in his quest to capture the best and most spirited conventions nationwide for his forthcoming book Conventional Wisdom was the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Northbrook, Illinois, where he dove into the annual gathering of the World Clown Association (WCA).

Read all about it, and see more of Drooker’s photos, at “Conventional Wisdom: World Clown Association.”

* Alfred Lord Tennyson

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As we practice our pratfalls, we might recall that it was on this date in 1910 that President William Howard Taft inaugurated a long-standing tradition: he threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the baseball game that began the major league season.

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Written by LW

April 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

“All the world loves a clown”*…

 

Nonetheless, circus folk fear that a national clown shortage is on the horizon.  In a trend that only those who suffer coulrophobia could love, membership in the country’s largest trade organizations for the jesters has plunged, as an aging membership struggles to recruit new nabobs of the crimson nose.

‘What’s happening is attrition,’ said Clowns of America International President Glen Kohlberger, who added that membership at the Florida-based organization has plummeted since 2006. ‘The older clowns are passing away.’ He said he wouldn’t release specific numbers, citing the privacy of the members.

Membership at the World Clown Association, the country’s largest trade group for clowns, has dropped from about 3,500 to 2,500 since 2004. ‘The challenge is getting younger people involved in clowning,’ said Association President Deanna (Dee Dee) Hartmier, who said most of her members are over 40.

Read more in The Daily News [via NPR’s The Two-Way, from whence the photo above]

* Cole Porter

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As we stock up on greasepaint, we might send provocatively nonsensical birthday greetings to Hugo Ball; he was born on this date in 1886.  Ball worked as an actor with Max Reinhardt and Hermann Bahr in Berlin until the outbreak of World War I.  A staunch pacifist, Ball made his way to Switzerland, where he turned his hand to poetry in an attempt to express his horror at the conflagration enveloping Europe. (“The war is founded on a glaring mistake, men have been confused with machines.”)

Settling in Zürich, Ball was a co-founder of the Dada movement (and, lore suggests, its namer, having allegedly picked the word at random from a dictionary).  With Tristan Tzara and Jan Arp, among others, he co-founded and presided over the Cabaret Voltaire, the epicenter of Dada.  And in 1916, he created the first Dada Manifesto (Tzara’s came two years later).

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Written by LW

February 22, 2014 at 1:01 am

The best-laid plans…

 

Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s design for the U.S. Capital

Be they company towns, aimed at keeping workers close to their jobs, or national capitals, designed as civic monuments, planned cities are just that: laid out in advance and constructed from scratch.  Wired‘s collection of “Planned Cities Seen From Space” offers a glimpse of how 10 of these purpose-built cities turned out…

Walter Burley Griffin’s design for Canberra

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As we argue with our architects, we might send silly birthday greetings to Joseph Grimaldi; he was born on this date in 1778.  The most popular English entertainer of his day, Grimaldi was an actor, comedian and dancer who effectively invented the character of The Clown as today we know it.  He became so dominant on the London comic stage that harlequinade Clowns became known as “Joey”; both that nickname and the trademark whiteface make-up that Grimaldi created were, and still are, used widely by all types of clowns.  His catchphrases “Shall I?” and “Here we are again!” still get laughs in pantomimes.

Grimaldi’s memoir, edited by his fan Charles Dickens (who had, as a child, seen Grimaldi perform), was a best-seller.  The annual memorial service held for him (in February at Holy Trinity Church in the London Borough of Hackney) is attended by hundreds of clown performers from all over the world– who attend in full make-up and costume.

Grimaldi, au naturel

Grimaldi, in character

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Written by LW

December 18, 2012 at 1:01 am

Greasepaint and Brine…

The legendary songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David once stated that “what the world needs now is love, sweet love.”

I beg to differ.

What the world needs– nay, rightfully deserves– are 1950s advertising photos of clowns eating pickle products.

More, at Armagideon Time’s “Greasepaint and Brine.”

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As we tickle our tastebuds, we might recall that it was on this date in 1057, at the Battle of Lumphanan, that King Macbeth of Scotland was slain by Malcolm Canmore– whose father, King Duncan I, was murdered by Macbeth 17 years earlier.

(Shakespeare’s MacBeth is based on Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, which in turn borrows from Boece’s 1527 Scotorum Historiae– which was crafted to flatter Duncan, an ancestor of Boece’s patron, King James V of Scotland.  Accounts now considered more historically-accurate– and fairer to MacBeth–  can be found in the novels of Dorothy Dunnett and Nigel Tranter… though of course the Bard’s tale is still the rippingest.)

Imagined 19th century portrait of Macbeth

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Written by LW

August 15, 2012 at 1:01 am

Stocking Stuffers for the Sagacious…

 

In the same spirit as the afore-featured Literary Action Figures, and just in time for the Holidays, The Unemployed Philosophers Guild (“The unexamined gift is not worth giving”) offers finger puppets of the world’s greatest philosophers, authors, artists, leaders, and thinkers…

Mark Twain

Immanuel Kant

Virginia Woolf

Mahatma Gandhi

Marie Curie

Louis Armstrong

Find these and 100 more, from Hannah Arendt and the Buddha to Ulysses S. Grant and Zora Neale Hurston, at The Unemployed Philosophers Guild.

[TotH to Brain Pickings]

 

As we muse on the money we’ll save on manicures, we might send poignantly amusing birthday wishes to Emmett Kelly, the best-known circus clown of the Twentieth Century; he was born on this date in 1898.

Kelly began his career under the big top in the early 1920s as a trapeze artist; but in 1931, he switched to clowning.  In a move that was revolutionary at the time, Kelly eschewed traditional white-face, darkening his face to become “Weary Willie,” a character based on the hobos of the time.  While he did do gags (famously, “opening” a peanut with a sledgehammer), his act was largely mimed sketches in which his bedraggled character is yet again out of luck.  (Perhaps his best-known bit derived from his regular appearance after other acts, sweeping up:  toward the end of the show he tries– and of course fails– to sweep up the pool of light cast by a spotlight.)

Kelly worked at a number of different circuses through the 20s and 30s until he settled, in 1942, at Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey.  He performed there (with a short break to play “Willie” in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952) until 1956, when he served a year as the mascot of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He was an inaugural inductee into the International Clown Hall of Fame and into the International Circus Hall of Fame. And though he was born in Sedan, Kansas, Kelly was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians; a bronze bust depicting him is on permanent display in the rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol.

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Written by LW

December 9, 2011 at 1:01 am

Boys and Girls of All Ages!…

With a caveat to sufferers of the previously-explored affliction Coulrophobia, and as a kind of companion to the earlier-featured “Dictionary of Carny, Circus, Sideshow & Vaudeville Lingo ,” a collection of vintage circus and carnival posters and photos– one wonder after another!

These and many more at “Le Cirque” and “Bread and Circuses,” Flickr sets from gifted collector DoubleM2 (whose other groups of similarly fascinating designs from other corners of the human experience are also eminently worthy of a wander).

As we choose between an extra-large and an extra-extra-large popcorn, we might recall that it was on this date in 1992 that SummerSlam was held At Wembly Stadium in London.  With paid admissions of 80,355, it was certainly the largest ever professional wrestling crowd outside the U.S.  It may indeed have been the largest wrestling crowd ever:  the WWF reported that attendance at Wrestlemania III, held in Pontiac Michigan in 1987, had attendance of over 93,000; but many writers present believe that the WWF materially “overstated” the gate (and that the figure was more like 78,000).  In any case, no other pro wrestling event, before or since, has been so well attended.

Promotion for the broadcast, two days later

For video of SummerSlam 1992, click here.

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